Enterovirus D68 (EV-D68) is a non-polio virus that was discovered in 1962, but has spread quickly and widely among children this summer and fall. There have been over 590 confirmed cases in the United States, all except one of them occurring in children.
Those infected with the virus will show symptoms similar to the common cold, like a fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing and body or muscle aches, but other more severe symptoms of D68 are whooping or difficulty breathing. According to WebMD, parents should seek hospitalization of their little ones if they develop either of those more severe symptoms.
Most kids who get the D68 infection will not experience whooping or difficulty breathing, and instead will ride out the infection like they would a common cold. Doctors recommend giving your kids over the counter medications and lots of fluids, rest and TLC. There is no vaccine or antiviral medicine to cure D68, and antibiotics will not work because it's a virus, not a bacteria.
Children ages 6 months to 16 years are at risk for the virus, but it is most common among 4- and 5-year-olds. About two-thirds of the children hospitalized with D68 have had a history of breathing problems.
“Many of us will have EV-D68,” says Michael Fine, MD, director of the Rhode Island Department of Health. “Most of us will have very mild symptoms, and all but very few will recover quickly and completely. The vast majority of children exposed to EV-D68 recover completely.”
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Most children affected by D68 won't even be able to tell it's D68 unless severe symptoms develop and tests are done. The virus is a tough one, but with proper medical treatment, your child can get better. And unfortunately, it's going to get worse before it can get better.
“In order for this virus to stop, it’s going to have to infect enough of the population to provide immunity and essentially burn itself out,” said Mary Anne Jackson, MD. She's the division director of infectious disease at Children’s Mercy Hospital in Kansas City, MO, the hospital where the first cases were identified.
Some children who have had D68 did die, but it is unclear if they died directly from the virus or if the virus was a contributing factor along with something else. Some cases of D68 were even linked to unexplained paralysis, but similarly, doctors are unsure if it was caused directly from the virus or a coinciding factor.
The virus is spread through saliva, nasal mucus and sputum. As always, tell your children to wash their hands and cover their mouth when they cough or sneeze. It's preferable for them to cover their mouth with a tissue, but if they cannot grab one in time, tell them to cough or sneeze into the crook of their elbow. The virus can be passed on through commonly touched surfaces, so be sure to disinfect door handles, desks, counters, toys, TV remotes, phones, computers, tablets, etc. The virus can be eliminated by common detergents or disinfectants, so it's easy to keep your home clear of the virus.
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Sources: WebMD, CDC